“Peace Prayer of Saint Francis”—a popular hymn best known by its opening words “Make me a channel of your peace,” and sung to a tune written by the Anglican composer Sebastian Temple. Many are quite shocked to find that this song is not identical to Francis’s “Canticle of Brother Sun,” from which Zefferelli took the name of his movie. The “Peace Prayer” is modern and anonymous, originally written in French, and dates to about 1912, when it was published in a minor French spiritual magazine, La Clochette. Noble as its sentiments are, Francis would not have written such a piece, focused as it is on the self, with its constant repetition of the pronouns “I” and “me,” the words “God” and “Jesus” never appearing once.
Happy Feast of St. Francis.
Now that we have a Pope named Francis, and we know that he intended to invoke St. Francis of Assisi, we might delve into what St. Francis really thought and said.
First, if you have the notion that Francis was bunny-hugging, pastel-toned image on a holy card or garden statuette, with little birdies sitting on his arms. Think again. Francis had his tender side, but he was as hard as nails. This is, after all, the guy who went to face down a Sultan when things between Christians and Islam weren’t exactly cordial.
A long time friend, the Great Roman Fabrizio™ once put together texts which give insight into what Francis was really about. He pulled quotes from the texts of Francis, most not translated into English elsewhere. He uses the exact words of St. Francis as found in the original Franciscan Sources and quoted in Latin (or Italian) original when available online. Otherwise, he transcribed them from the print edition. And online source for St. Francis’ own writings: OPUSCULA OMNIA SANCTI FRANCISCI ASSISIENSIS
The Poor Man of Assisi would not have been into clay pots and gunny sack vestments for Mass.
MYTH: Francis hated the “triumphalism” of the Roman Liturgy. He wanted Mass celebrated in barns, the Sacred Species held in shoe boxes or recycled bottles. And he couldn’t stand the “ritualism” of liturgical norms and devotional practices (and shall we mention his murky understanding of the doctrine on the Eucharist?):
Epistola ad custodes
To all the custodians of the Friars Minor to whom this letter shall come, Brother Francis, your servant and little one in the Lord God, greetings with new signs of heaven and earth which are great and most excellent before God and are considered least of all by many religious and by other men.
I beg you more than if it were a question of myself that, when it is becoming and you will deem it convenient, you humbly beseech the clerics to venerate above all the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Name and written words which sanctify the body. They ought to hold the chalices, corporals, ornaments of the altar, and all that pertain to the Sacrifice as precious. And if the most holy Body of the Lord is left very poorly in any place, let It be moved by them to a precious place, according to the command of the Church and let It be carried with great veneration and administered to others with discretion. The Names also and written words of the Lord, In whatever unclean place they may be found, let them be collected, and then they must be put in a proper place. And in every time you preach, admonish the people about penance and that no one can be saved except he that receives the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord. And whenever It is being sacrificed by the priest on the altar and It is being carried to any place, let all the people give praise, honor, and glory to the Lord God Living and True on their bended knees. And let His praise be announced and preached to all peoples so that at every hour and when the bells are rung praise and thanks shall always be given to the Almighty God by all the people through the whole earth.
And whoever of my brothers custodians shall receive this writing, let them copy it and keep it with them and cause it to be copied for the brothers who have the office of preaching and the care of brothers, and let them preach all those things that are contained in this writing to the end: let them know they have the blessing of the Lord God and mine. And let these be for them true and holy obedience.
Universis custodibus fratrum minorum, ad quos litterae istae pervenerint, frater Franciscus in Domino Deo vester servus et parvulus, salutem cum novis signis caeli et terrae, quae magna et excellentissima sunt apud Deum et a multis religiosis et aliis hominibus minima reputantur. Rogo vos plus quam de me ipso, quatenus, cum decet et videritis expedire, clericis humiliter supplicetis, quod sanctissimum corpus et sanguinem Domini nostri Jesu Christi et sancta nomina et verba eius scripta, quae sanctificant corpus, super omnia debeant venerari. Calices, corporalia, ornamenta altaris et omnia, quae pertinent ad sacrificium, pretiosa habere debeant. Et si in aliquo loco sanctissimum corpus Domini fuerit pauperrime collocatum, iuxta mandatum Ecclesiae in loco pretioso ab eis ponatur et consignetur et cum magna veneratione portetur et cum discretione aliis ministretur. Nomina etiam et verba Domini scripta, ubicumque inveniantur in locis immundis, colligantur et in loco honesto debeant collocari. Et in omni praedicatione, quam facitis, de poenitentia populum moneatis, et quod nemo potest salvari, nisi qui recipit sanctissimum corpus et sanguinem Domini (cfr. Joa 6,54). Et, quando a sacerdote sacrificatur super altare et in aliqua parte portatur, omnes gentes flexis genibus reddant laudes, gloriam et honorem Domino Deo vivo et vero. Et de laude eius ita omnibus gentibus annuntietis et praedicetis, ut omni hora et quando pulsantur campanae semper ab universo populo omnipotenti Deo laudes et gratiae referantur per totam terram. Et, ad quoscumque fratres meos custodes pervenerit hoc scriptum et exemplaverint et apud se habuerint et pro fratribus, qui habent officium praedicationis et custodiam fratrum, fecerint exemplari et omnia, quae continentur in hoc scripto, praedicaverint usque in finem, sciant se habere benedictionem Domini Dei et meam. Et ista sint eis per veram et sanctam obedientiam. Amen.